In most RPGs, the world is in danger from some imminent threat. Demons are attacking humanity, meteors hurtle toward the planet, or otherworldly forces mean to swallow the world whole. Even so, the heroes have time to go fishing, gamble, go shopping, play minigames, and do anything but save the world.
Nicolás Di Tirro, developer of Linked Worlds, found it odd that evil would just wait around for the heroes to vanquish it. As such, he created a system where time would matter, opening and closing in-game events based on the passage of time. Siliconera spoke with him about this idea, and how it changed and guided the design of his RPG.
What made you decide to create a game where events happened at specific times?
Nicolás Di Tirro, developer of Linked Worlds – In most games, the heroes need to hurry to save the world, but end up spending their time doing side quests such as finding missing cats. I wanted to try something different. If the heroes spend hours doing side quests, training, or exploring, those hours should be reflected. For that, I needed in-game time, and with that came time-related events.
How are some of the effects of the passage of time on the player?
What happens in the world depends on the time. Maybe you are in a dungeon and something is happening in a town far away, sometimes without you even realizing it. Events may occur in any town or dungeon, and you may return to a town several weeks later and discover the consequences of you not being there.
Most activities will consume time, such as fishing or sleeping. Players will need to decide what to do and think of the best way to spend their time.
What challenges do you face in development when you have to have a specific schedule for each NPC and in-game event?
It takes a lot of work. Most NPCs follow a simple schedule (eg. you see them working at their shop, then they close it and may go to the bar), so you know when and where to meet them. With others, it is more complicated as they may need to go to other towns, depending on the day. Lastly, there are NPCs that may be affected by your actions, so there will be different dialogues or scenes depending on what you do, and it takes a lot of work considering that most NPCs in a town will react to something important, such as a death.
What sorts of events can players show up for in the game’s world? What things will they be doing that they’ll want to be on time for?
As previously mentioned, NPCs lives will continue no matter where you are. Some times NPCs will request your help, either by getting an item or defeating monsters. By helping them you may get items as reward, and sometimes even change their lives, so it’s up to the player to help them, or continue their adventure.
Where will players have to go to find some of these wandering NPCs? Where will they be going throughout the day?
Every NPC has a different sprite, so you will recognize them on-sight and see that they have their own life. Most shop owners will open their shops during the day, and you’ll see them walking in town after they close their doors. You may see a merchant in different towns depending the day. An NPC whom you talked to one day in your journey, may ask you for help some weeks later.
What steps are you taking to make sure players don’t get frustrated by missing too many important events?
I have to admit that I hate it whenever I play a game and get a message saying “quest no longer available”. I want people playing for the first time to not worry about it and just enjoy it. All quests will have a window of time to do them, and the more important they are, the bigger the window will be. So, anyone who is interested in seeing them probably won’t miss them.
For those that want to replay the game, there will be a new game plus mode, and by keeping stats and items, everything will run much faster, so the player will have more freedom to explore and not waste time training or sleeping.
What does this ‘real time’-like element add to your game’s world and story? How does it change it over time?
At the beginning of the story, you realize that a monster that once terrorized the continent has broken its seal, and it will recover its powers with each passing day. The longer you take to defeat it, the stronger it will get. Take too much time exploring, and you’ll have a hard time later.
People will also react to the world as time goes by. At first they won’t realize it, but then they will start hearing rumors and finally discover that it has awoken and start to panic.